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Chapter One: The Body Search
Chapter One: The Body Search
It had to have been the most extraordinarily humiliating day of Michael Jackson's life. On December 20, 1993, a team of investigators arrived at the entertainer's sprawling ranch in Los Olivos, California. In their possession was a search warrant giving them the legal right to visually examine and photograph Jackson's body, including his buttocks, penis, and scrotum.
Four months earlier, a twelve-year-old boy named Jordan Chandler from Santa Monica, California, had told a psychiatrist that the pop star had molested him over a period of months while he and his family were traveling with Jackson and while they were guests at his Neverland Ranch. The boy had provided a detailed description, including a hand-drawn image, of what he claimed to be Michael Jackson's sex organs.
Now, authorities were in Jackson's driveway, determined to learn whether the boy's depiction was accurate. Clutching a bag full of gear, a police photographer was among the investigative team. His assignment was to make a detailed photographic record of the King of Pop's genitals.
As agreed upon, the investigative team had arrived at Neverland at 4:45 P.M. Among them were Santa Barbara district attorney Tom Sneddon, Santa Barbara police detective Russ Birchim, Santa Barbara sheriff's office photographer Gary Spiegel, LAPD detective Frederico Sicard, and Dr. Richard Strick, a dermatologist.
The group had rented a limousine to ensure that if they were spotted driving into the sprawling compound they would not be recognized by the media, which had been hovering ever since Jackson had returned to the States ten days earlier aboard a private jet. He had entered the country under the radar through Billings, Montana, after a reported stay in drug rehab* and after canceling the remainder of his worldwide Dangerous Tour.
A prearranged password was provided to security members manning the gates before the team was granted entry to the property. Once inside, the officials were directed to a parking area adjacent to one of the estate's main buildings, where Jackson's criminal defense lawyers, Johnnie Cochran and Howard Weitzman, stood waiting.
The two attorneys had just flown in via helicopter from Los Angeles. As they stood speaking with officials on the driveway, three helicopters hovered far overhead. From their markings, it was clear they were from the news media.
Pulling the district attorney aside, Cochran quietly explained that his client was "apprehensive" and "reluctant" about the pending body search. The lawyer asked for patience and then left the group in the driveway while he went back inside the expansive Tudor-style mansion to try to convince Jackson to allow the lawmen to carry out what they came to do.
The officials finally got so cold waiting outside in the frigid December air that they returned to the warmth of their car to wait.
One hour passed before the second Jackson attorney, Howard Weitzman, finally rapped on the vehicle's window to inform the team of a further delay. The lawyer appeared helpless to change the situation but suggested that the district attorney set a deadline he could take back to his client.
Tom Sneddon, who is not known as a man who likes to be kept waiting, said simply, "Ten minutes."
Clearly, Jackson took the deadline seriously because in exactly ten minutes his attorney was back to report that his client was finally ready. The team was escorted to a building away from the main house to what appeared to be the ranch's security office, where they were introduced to Jackson's two personal physicians -- Dr. David Forecast, an MD from London, England, and Dr. Arnold Klein, a Beverly Hills dermatologist who has often been cited as the doctor who provides Michael Jackson with the skin-bleaching cream he uses daily. Klein was also the employer of a nurse named Debbie Rowe, who would later marry Jackson and give birth to two of his children. Jackson had insisted that both doctors be present for the execution of the search warrant.
Jackson's chief of security, Bill Bray, and a personal Jackson photographer named Louis Swayne were also in the office when the team arrived.
After some time, the sheriff's photographer and the two detectives, Birchim and Sicard, were led upstairs to a compact room just to the right of the second-floor landing. The officers immediately noticed Michael Jackson, who was seated on a small couch and wearing only a beige bathrobe. At his side was Dr. Forecast, the attending physician who had reportedly squired Jackson through his drug rehab program just weeks prior.
Jackson appeared uneasy as the group filed in. The close quarters suddenly felt even more cramped with Detectives Birchim and Sicard, Doctors Strick, Klein, and Forecast, and Jackson's photographer, Louis Swayne, all but hovering over the pop star.
To ease the strain, Detective Birchim reached out his hand to make an introduction. "I am Detective Russ Birchim of the Santa Barbara County Sheriff's Office. I realize this procedure is unpleasant for you, and we appreciate your cooperation," he told the entertainer.
Detective Sicard politely introduced himself as well.
"Thank you," Jackson replied in a soft voice.
The atmosphere in the small room remained tense as Jackson's attorney Howard Weitzman accepted the official copy of the search warrant from Birchim.
"I'd like to see the search warrant affidavit also," Weitzman said, referring to the victim statement that often accompanies a request for a warrant.
Up until this point, Jackson's attorneys were completely in the dark as to what exactly the boy had told authorities. They had no idea what it was that police were looking for on Michael Jackson's body.
"I don't think so," Detective Birchim shot back.
Weitzman laughed and said, "It never hurts to try." He then left the room and closed the door behind him.
Police photographer Gary Spiegel was readying his equipment outside the door when suddenly he heard Michael Jackson explode in a rage.
"Who are you?" Jackson shouted, pointing a finger at Detective Birchim.
"Detective Birchim from the Santa Barbara Sheriff's Department," the officer replied, puzzled at Jackson's question. It had not been two minutes since their formal introduction.
"Is he going to be here, too?" Jackson asked as he turned to face Dr. Forecast, who sat next to him on the couch.
"Yes," Jackson's physician replied.
"I don't want you here. Get out!" Jackson shouted at Detective Birchim, directing the officer toward the door. "Get out! I said to leave; you get out!"
The now-enraged Jackson pointed to Detective Sicard next. "Is he going to be here, too? Who is he?"
"I'm Detective Sicard from LAPD," Sicard spoke up.
"Get out of here. You get out of here, too," Jackson ranted. The star struggled to rise from the couch as Dr. Forecast worked to restrain him.
As the tirade continued, Jackson reached over and slapped his physician in an attempt to break free.
Noting that the sparsely attired singer was both "hysterical" and "completely uncontrollable," Birchim stepped in and attempted to calm him down. He asked Jackson if his attorneys had explained the search warrant procedure, including the requirement that law enforcement officials observe the warrant service. Seemingly oblivious, Jackson continued to scream and struggle as Dr. Forecast fought to control him.
It was unclear why Jackson was trying so violently to leave the couch, and for a moment, Birchim was unsure if his intention was to attack him or to flee the room.
"Mr. Jackson, I am going to ask your attorneys to confer with you to explain -- " Birchim began.
"You assholes!" Jackson screamed as the detective stepped out into the hallway to consult with Howard Weitzman.
Telling the criminal attorney that his client was "out of control," Birchim explained that police would be unable to perform the search given Jackson's present state of hysteria. He then followed Weitzman back into the room and watched as the lawyer tried to assist the still-struggling Dr. Forecast to calm Jackson down.
"Can you go downstairs and summon Johnnie Cochran to the room?" Weitzman asked Birchim. "Tell him he is needed immediately."
The detective found Cochran downstairs speaking with the district attorney. Explaining that the lawyer was needed immediately, Birchim trailed the lawyer as he raced up the stairs. Once in the room with Jackson, Cochran took over, attempting to soothe the star and get the examination back on track. Birchim returned downstairs to speak with the district attorney.
Minutes later, Johnnie Cochran rejoined the officials downstairs. Jackson, he explained, was refusing to have the procedure commence with the two officers in the room. He asked the district attorney if it would be possible to have the genital examination and photos done without the detectives present. Cochran said it was the only way to accomplish the examination.
It was agreed that Drs. Strick and Klein, as well as photographers Spiegel and Swayne, would initiate the procedure on their own. The two detectives, Sneddon agreed, would leave the room.
At 6:04 P.M., according to Birchim's sworn declaration, the examination finally began behind closed doors as the rest of the group waited in the hall. Even Dr. Forecast had been asked to leave. But just four minutes into the session, Birchim reported that there was another outburst.
At approximately 1808 hours the door suddenly burst open and I saw Jackson in the doorway struggling to leave the room and being physically restrained by Dr. Klein. Dr. Klein was pleading with Jackson to settle down and he told him, "Michael, you can wear your shorts." Jackson, struggling with Dr. Klein several feet from me and Detective Sicard, pointed at me and yelled, "I want pictures of you two next." Dr. Klein was successful in pulling Jackson back into the room and the door was once again closed.
Sergeant Gary Spiegel, the sheriff's photographer, had made it clear to his superiors that he would require assistance from the two detectives in order to carry out his photographic duties. In a sworn declaration, he later explained that he "anticipated taking several [photographs] using close-up equipment":
In using close-up equipment, I would need assistance in having one person position the flash attachment to the camera where I directed, and have another person position the scale into the area to be photographed at my direction. My assignment was to take full-body overall photographs and then numerous close-up photographs of specific areas.
Spiegel's assignment also required extra hands to hold his lighting equipment as well as a measuring device to record the length and width of any discoloration found on Jackson's body. Without the two detectives in the room to help him, the photographer's job would be almost impossible. Spiegel wrote in a declaration to the court:
I entered the room. In the room, I saw Mr. Jackson sitting on a sofa against the far wall. I carried with me a Canon AE-1 Program 35mm camera with a Vivitar Series 1, 28-90mm zoom lens attached to the camera and a Vivitar model 283 flash unit detached with a remote sensor cord. I carried with me a second lens, which was a Vivitar Series 1, 70-210mm zoom lens, which I intended to use for close-up photography. Loaded into the camera was a fresh 36-exposure roll of Kodak color negative film rated at 200 ASA. I took two photographs of Jackson sitting on the sofa. Mr. Swayne was to my right and when I began to take photographs so did he. Dr. Klein made a statement that we were interested in photographing Jackson's genital area and directed Jackson to stand and remove the robe he had on.
Jackson protested, saying things like "What do I have to do that for?" and "Why are they doing this?"
In my opinion, Jackson's demeanor was a combination of hostility and anger. Jackson complied with Dr. Klein's request to remove the robe and to lower the pair of gray swimming trunks he was wearing. As Mr. Jackson was complying with Dr. Klein's request, Dr. Klein made the statement that others in the room should turn their heads so as not to view Jackson's genital area.
At the time, I found this peculiar because the only persons in the room at the time were Mr. Jackson, the two doctors, me, and the other photographer. Dr. Klein also made the statement that he was not going to look. He said he had never seen Mr. Jackson's genital area and he was not going to do so at this time. As Mr. Jackson lowered his trunks, he said something to the effect of, "I don't know why they are making me do this" or "Why are they making me do this?" Mr. Jackson's attitude was, in my opinion, still one of hostility and anger. The thought occurred to me that although he was somewhat cooperative, his cooperation could end abruptly. I took several photographs of Jackson's genitals from his right side first and moved to his left side. The other photographer switched positions from Mr. Jackson's right side to his left side as I shifted positions.
While I was on Mr. Jackson's left side, Dr. Strick asked Mr. Jackson to lift his penis. Mr. Jackson questioned why he had to do that, but he did comply with the request. When Mr. Jackson complied with Dr. Strick's request to lift his penis, I observed a dark spot on the lower left side of Mr. Jackson's penis.
It's unclear whether Sergeant Spiegel actually had time to snap a photograph of the mark he saw. But law enforcement sources, as well as Chandler family sources, said that the dark patch on Jackson's genitals was found exactly where young Jordan Chandler said they could find such a mark. It's important to note that the dark spot was only visible when the penis was lifted -- as during sexual arousal. Spiegel's narrative continued.
Mr. Jackson [then] started moving quickly in my direction. I was not sure if he was coming after me or headed to the door, which was directly behind me, but as he came at me I took a step to the side and out of his path, if he was headed to the door. He went past me toward the closed door with Dr. Klein right behind him. When he got to the door he apparently opened it and yelled at someone on the other side of the door that he wanted "pictures of them too." I did not see who he was pointing to, but it seemed obvious to me at the time that it must have been Detectives Birchim and Sicard.
At Dr. Klein's insistence Mr. Jackson returned to the position he had been at by the sofa, prior to going to the door. As he did, he pointed at me and told me he wanted pictures of me too.
Mr. Jackson was making statements to Dr. Klein that he did not want to continue to be photographed but...at Dr. Klein's request Mr. Jackson turned his back to us [the photographers] and lowered his trunks so we could see and photograph his buttocks area. In my opinion Mr. Jackson's attitude had changed from one of hostility and anger to one of rage. Dr. Klein directed Mr. Jackson to remove his shirt and show us his chest area, his back area, and his legs. During the session and after or during every couple of photographs Mr. Jackson and Dr. Klein would keep asking, "Are you done?" "Don't you have enough?" "How many more?" and other statements and questions of this nature.
At one point Mr. Jackson asked me directly, "Who are you?" I ignored the question and kept photographing. Mr. Jackson then asked Dr. Klein, "Who is he?" and either Dr. Klein or Dr. Strick told him I was just a photographer doing my job. I was under the distinct impression that if Mr. Jackson knew I was a law enforcement officer the session would have ended.
I attempted to be as unobtrusive as I possibly could and take the photographs as Dr. Klein directed Mr. Jackson to move from position to position. I was aware that they were not exactly the photographs I would have taken had I had a completely cooperative subject, but it was my intent to take what they were allowing me to take before I insisted on something different. Dr. Klein was, in my opinion, rushing Mr. Jackson through this session. After I exposed twenty-three frames of film Dr. Klein asked me in a strong tone of voice if I was done. It was asked in such a manner that it was more like a demand than a question. I told Dr. Klein that I was not done yet and that I wanted to talk to the lawyers before proceeding.
Sergeant Spiegel left the room to confer with the district attorney, who in turn tried to negotiate again with Jackson's attorney Howard Weitzman for more time to shoot the pictures. But it was already too late. Unbeknownst to Spiegel and Sneddon, Jackson had already departed through another door. It was Detective Birchim, outside for a smoke, who suddenly spotted the star leaving from the second-floor stairway. Birchim recalled in his declaration:
He was fully dressed, including a black fedora hat and red jacket. Jackson walked from the stairway, turned right, and entered an open doorway leading to a large open-air ground-floor parking structure.
I contacted Mr. Cochran and advised him his client had just exited the building. Cochran joined Mr. Jackson in the parking area and put his hands on Jackson's shoulders. Several seconds later Jackson reappeared in the doorway and with great gusto, slammed the door leading into the parking area. At approximately 1900 hours we departed Neverland Ranch and returned to Santa Barbara.
Copyright © 2005 by Diane Dimond